I maybe be proven wrong (and hopefully I will be) but for me this is the biggest book of 2012. I was a late comer to reading WOLF HALL but dived straight into the sequel. Mantel’s writing is mesmerizing and she again breathes life into a story most of us know so well. It felt like I had picked up WOLF HALL again and was simply continuing on with the story of Thomas Cromwell.
Rather than looking at the love affairs and scandal of the fall of Anne Boleyn BRING UP THE BODIES is all about the behind-the-scenes machinations and the jockeying for position and favour. But in the end it is about personal revenge. It is absolutely captivating.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are again on the periphery of the story. WOLF HALL was the rise of Thomas Cromwell and in BRING UP THE BODIES he is at the height of his powers. Thomas Cromwell is often portrayed as a hard and vicious attack dog (and I think also confused by some with Oliver Cromwell) but Mantel presents him as a much more complex and complicated character. The ghost of Cardinal Wolsey literally haunts Cromwell. Wolsey was his mentor and he still harbours much loyalty to him. But he also understands why and how he fell from grace and is determined that he doesn’t meet a similar (or worse) fate.
There will be another book to follow BRING UP THE BODIES which I assume will be the fall of Thomas Cromwell. I cannot wait to see how Hilary Mantel plays that story out. However I have grown very attached to Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell and don’t want to see him meet his end. But then again he is playing the game of thrones…..